All posts by jimthomsen

National Novel Writing Month!

Do you know about National Novel Writing Month?

Put in its simplest terms, it’s a challenge to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. Every year, thousands of writers push aside as many pressures on their time as possible and set goals of setting down around 2,000 words — or more — each day as they try to make their dreams of becoming published authors come true with one big push. And many authors who have been published use the month to push forward on their newest projects.

The best part of NaNoWriMo, as its participants call it, is that you’re not doing it alone. Every year, through the website, NaNoWriMo participants find fellow writers in their communities. They meet, they commiserate, they encourage one another, they hold each other accountable. (In Kitsap, you can find each other here.)

In 2008, my friend Craig Lancaster and I decided to take the NaNoWriMo challenge together. A fellow newspaper editor, Craig, like me, had always wanted to break into the novel-writing biz but hadn’t quite pushed himself forward.

I faceplanted. After getting a great start on a nasty little noirish crime novel about an estranged father and son who bond over a rising body count, I wandered off track with my narrative and decided to hit the reset button on Nov. 15. Yep, I started all over. I pushed hard, and wrote more than 10,000 words on Nov. 30, but in the end I came up short at just under 43,000 words.

Craig, by contrast, drew a much more confident bead on his project and knocked out some 80,000 words in just 24 days. Wow! He spent the next several weeks polishing up his manuscript, and had it ready to release as a self-published book by March 2009. The novel, titled 600-Hours Of A Life, was a lean, light comedy-drama about a man with Asperger Syndrome trying to broaden his narrow comfort zone in life before he turned forty.

Thanks to Craig’s tireless efforts and business savvy, the book began to find an audience, and virtually everyone who read it loved it. His relatively strong sales and standout reviews, mostly in his home state of Montana, drew the notice of a Montana outfit called Riverbend Publishing. By fall of 2009, Riverbend had re-released the book as 600 Hours Of Edward, bolstered its distribution reach, got it into the hands of more literary tastemakers … and, aided again by Craig’s tireless promotional work, touched some pretty rarified air.

By the time Edward won the High Plains Book Award, Craig had long since completed his second novel, The Summer Son. After shopping it to Riverbend, Craig made a deal this summer with AmazonEncore, the new publishing arm of the online bookselling giant, to release that novel in paperbook and e-book form in January 2011.

That’s right: Barely two years after we took the NaNoWriMo plunge, Craig’s literary star is on the ascendant. Backed by the fearsome global power of the world’s biggest bookseller, there’s just no telling what heights he’ll hit.

But … wait a minute, I can almost hear you saying. Just how did he get through NaNoWriMo to achieve this awesome success? What about the self-doubt we all deal with? The lack of direction? The lack of discipline? The pull of the pressures of everyday life? The gnawing fear that we really suck at writing?

I’m glad you asked. Because I asked Craig to share his perspective and advice, and he answered the bell as he always does.

Here’s what he had to say.

*****

Back in late October 2008, your kind blog host, Mr. Thomsen, asked me if I’d do National Novel Writing Month (aka, NaNoWriMo; aka, Couldn’t They Have Picked a Less Busy Month, Like, Say, March?) with him. After some hesitation, I agreed.

I’d been there before and had never finished the requisite 50,000 words in 30 days – had never really come close. I had no reason to expect that NaNoWriMo 2008 would be any different – especially since I hadn’t given it much thought and didn’t have a story idea.

As Jim’s already said, that November changed my life and gave some juice to my aspirations of being a novelist, a dream I’d long held but hadn’t done much work in realizing. Here, then, are five hints (plus one bonus observation) for making the most of NaNoWriMo, should you be just crazy enough to accept the challenge:

1.     Publication? Perish the thought: If you’re dreaming of a book deal and wearing an ascot in your author photo, you’re way too far ahead of yourself. NaNoWriMo is about tossing a lump of wet clay onto the wheel and beginning to fashion something. Your only expectation should be that you’ll be a ways down the road come Nov. 30. Even if you go truly stratospheric, like I did, and write 80,000 or so words, your story will not be ready for agents or publishers. Bank on it.

2.     Let inspiration carry you: When I started writing at midnight on Nov. 1, 2008, I had a basic story idea, a bare-bones outline intended to keep me focused and a lot of enthusiasm for the effort. That last bit mattered most. This is a 30-day festival of dumping the contents of your mind. Consider letting adrenaline, rather than richly detailed plot points, carry you. The ride is so much more interesting when the final destination isn’t known.

3.     Don’t fall behind: You know that vicious cycle of destitution that occurs when you don’t pay your bills? There are late fees and reconnection fees, and you end up in an even more precarious place. Same thing with NaNoWriMo. To get 50,000 words in 30 days, you have to write 1,667 words, minimum, each day. If you write 750 on the first day, you have to write 2,584 on Day 2. It doesn’t take long for the deficit to become more than you can make up. By the same token …

4.     Writing ahead is paying yourself: In 2008, I wrote 79,175 words by Nov. 25, my entire first draft of what became “600 Hours of Edward.” Here’s a day-by-day breakdown (in parentheses is each day’s progress):

Nov. 1, 2008: 5,763 (5,763)

Nov. 2, 2008: Off

Nov. 3, 2008: Off

Nov. 4, 2008: 11,183 (5,420)

Nov. 5, 2008: Off

Nov. 6, 2008: 13,721 (2,538)

Nov. 7, 2008: 16,963 (3,242)

Nov. 8, 2008: 20,439 (3,476)

Nov. 9, 2008: Off

Nov. 10, 2008: 23,085 (2,646)

Nov. 11, 2008: 27,293 (4,208)

Nov. 12, 2008: 30,744 (3,451)

Nov. 13, 2008: 34,558 (3,814)

Nov. 14, 2008: 39,886 (5,328)

Nov. 15, 2008: Off

Nov. 16, 2008: Off

Nov. 17, 2008: Off

Nov. 18, 2008: 43,846 (3,960)

Nov. 19, 2008: 51,811 (7,965)

Nov. 20, 2008: 54,816 (3,005)

Nov. 21, 2008: 60,837 (6,021)

Nov. 22, 2008: 63,957 (3,120)

Nov. 23, 2008: Off

Nov. 24, 2008: 73,208 (9,251)

Nov. 25, 2008: 79,175 (5,967)

Look at all those days off. I’m convinced, in retrospect, that the ample rest kept me sane, because on days I was writing, I clearly had time for little else.

5.     Move forward, always: I disdain most mechanical writing advice, believing that no one can tell anybody else how to coax a story into existence. But NaNoWriMo is different; if you’re doing this thing, presumably you’re doing it because you relish the challenge of the word count. (If you don’t relish that challenge, why bother with a contest? Just write.) So here’s the key: no backtracking, no rewriting, no revising. Every word should move your story forward. You most assuredly will have to rewrite, probably extensively. That’s what December and beyond are for.

6.     It’s OK to sit this one out: Having written one novel under the auspices of NaNoWriMo and one in a more traditional way (three-month first draft, followed by nine months of revisions), I have to tell you that I’ll probably never again do the NaNoWriMo thing. Word count is a pretty flimsy construct in the first place; when someone asks me how long a story should be, my answer is: As many words as it needs, and not one more. To then squeeze those 50,000 words out under intense pressure no doubt leads to some irretrievably poor writing. If it’s the challenge you want, that’s one thing. But if you’re aiming for a writing career, you should ask yourself some hard questions about what you want from a month’s work. It’s entirely possible that NaNoWriMo won’t offer what you’re seeking.

*****

Thanks, Craig. Sage words indeed.

And that’s all I shall say, at the risk of writing a 50,000-word blog post.

Well, there is more more thing.

Good luck!

Kitsap Authors Help Write A Novel … Live!

Bainbridge Island children's author Suzanne Selfors takes her turn onstage at "The Novel! Live" Wednesday at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle.

The Novel: Live! is in its third day. It’s a six-day endeavor in which 36 authors with Seattle-area ties — including six from Kitsap — each spend two hours writing a share of a novel before a live audience online at at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle.

The event, in which audience members can purchase character names, is a fundraiser for two Seattle-area literacy-promotion programs. Once the event is over this weekend, the book will undergo a round of editing and then be released for sale as an e-book.

As I write this, “at bat” is Bainbridge Island children’s book author Suzanne Selfors. She’ll be followed, from 2 to 4 p.m., by fellow Bainbridge author Carol Cassella. (You can follow the “action” live here, and read what’s been written so far here.)

Mary Guterson, who lived on the island until last year, takes her turn at 4 p.m. Thursday. (I expect to be on hand at the Hugo House for that, and will share some pictures.) Jamie Ford, the South Kitsap grad who now lives in Montana, takes the stage at 10 a.m. Saturday, and the last turn of the event will be taken by Bainbridge’s Susan Wiggs at 4 p.m. Saturday.

It’s an interesting concept that was most famously tried in the mid-’90s, before the days of streaming Internet, by a group of 13 Florida authors. Their effort was the comic mystery novel Naked Came The Manatee. But The Novel: Live! is different expressly because of its live element, and that has caused some trepidation among some of the authors I know who are participating in this endeavor — authors who are used to writing amid quiet and solitude.

Bainbridge author Kathleen Alcala put in her two hours Monday morning, and I asked her how it went. Her response:

It turned out to be really fun! My personal fear factor was that I would freeze up. I had a “cheat sheet” with me that just named places and ideas for people, to keep me grounded in images. I ended up writing over 2500 words in two hours, which is good for me. I joked with my editor that I should try writing in public more often.

There were around ten people coming and going while I wrote. Two friends stopped by to have a book signed (which annoyed the organizers while I went off-camera to do so), and another friend stopped by while walking her dog, so we had a glass of wine after I finished. More people were watching and commenting online. When I asked for suggestions for names for the twins, seven sets were submitted! So we auctioned that off in the evening.

I asked Jamie Ford about how he was anticipating his coming turn at the literary plate, and here’s what he had to say Monday:

I popped by this afternoon and it’s a really cool set-up. I’m not too worried about the “live” aspect. My first job out of college was working for a newspaper, which helps with the chaos-factor. At the paper I was at a desk, out in the open. Phones were ringing, people were always wandering by, police scanners were going off, that kind of thing. I think the “live” aspect is the best part, since writing is such a solitary job–the change up is exciting. As far as what emerges–It’s my sense that all of the writers involved are taking the story seriously, and the writing seriously, even though the process might be more of a spectacle. And of course it’s for a good cause.

So there you are. Sounds like as much fun to be a spectator, too. Especially since the Hugo House is hosting happy hours from 4 to 6 p.m. and 8 to 10 p.m. each day. You better believe I’ll be all over that. You should too, if you’re in the Capitol Hill area and have the time to spare.

Did You Live In Your Own “Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet”?

Did you live in Kitsap County in the 1940s, especially during the war years?

Did you and your family immigrate to America? Did you go through the bitter and sweet experience of blending the culture you brought from your home country into American society?

Do you have 25 minutes to spare, to share a few of those stories?

If so, the Kitsap Regional Library is very interested in hearing them.

The call to collect these oral histories is part of the library’s One Book One Community program, which this year celebrates Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet, the well-received, bestselling debut novel by South Kitsap High School graduate Jamie Ford. The above themes are the ones touched on in the book, which alternates in narrative between Seattle’s Chinese and Japanese communities in the 1940s and 1980s. The celebration will culminate in an Oct. 16 speaking appearance in Poulsbo by Ford, who now lives in Montana.

Heidi Larsen, the Kitsap librarian heading the oral history project, explains further.

“When you share your memories of Kitsap County, your experiences of immigration, and living in two cultures, you are giving back to your community,” she said. “Others can learn from your experiences.”

And, Larsen added, “oral histories are a great way to interact with the themes of Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet.

If you’re interested, or know someone who might be, here’s how it works.

First, call your nearest KRL branch. Library volunteers are being trained to conduct oral-history interviews for the project. Once you’ve set an appointment, your interview — approximately 25 minutes — will be recorded. You’ll later receive a copy of the interview on CD.

Another CD recording of each interview will be catalogued into the KRL collection, along with photos of each interviewee, and be posted on the library’s website — krl.org.

(Phone numbers for each KRL branch can be found here.)

Sometime in November, the library system will host an Oral History Celebration, with all interview participants invited.

* * * * *

Just a reminder that Jamie Ford has agreed to do a question-and-answer session for this blog ahead of his Oct. 16 appearance here. I’ll send off my questions and get that scheduled as soon as I finish reading Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet. And I have to say, it’s pretty good. Maybe even quite a bit better than that. Which, from this confirmed mystery-and-true-crime junkie, may be saying something. Or maybe not.

Wait A Minute … They Took A Taxi From Bremerton to Bainbridge Island?

Authors Joshilyn Jackson, Jane Smiley, Tatjana Soli, event organizer Robbie Wright, and authors Josie Brown and Eileen Goudge

Last week’s “Between The Pages” event on Bainbridge Island wasn’t perfect, as you’ll see below … but it was a success. (Let me check that: Once things got to Bainbridge, things were perfect.) But an enthusiastic crowd of about 75, paying at least $50 a ticket, came out to support the Kitsap Regional Library system and listen to a powerhouse lineup of female authors — Jane Smiley, Josie Brown, Eileen Goudge, Joshilyn Jackson and Tatjana Soli — read from their latest books.

Here’s a six-minute video of the evening‘s highlights, prepared by event organizers Robbie Wright and Liberty Bay Books owner Suzanne Droppert.

And when I asked Josie Brown to reflect on the evening, here’s what she had to say:

It was a great adventure, for sure. We had plenty of time to get to the ferry. Too much, apparently, because we got onto the wrong one: the Bremerton one as opposed to the Bainbridge — and didn’t realize it, until we almost docked and my husband, Martin, timidly asked me (because he thought I’d faint): “Hon, um, wasn’t this ferry ride supposed to be a half-hour, tops?”

A mad rush by taxi (we had a colorful driver — Anthony, originally from Buffalo, and the topic with him jumped from his tenure in the armed services to his job as a masseuse, to hemp clothing) and we were there, only fifteen minutes late. Jane was laughing because she’d made it over earlier that morning to visit a pal — and she was the one we thought would get lost or be late, as she’s always the one texting, “I have to be where? When?”

It was a wonderful crowd! Friendly, inquisitive, and obviously avid readers. What I love, too is that there were quite a few teachers and librarians there as well.

Eileen calls us “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Books.” Most of us met face-to-face for the first time just the night before, but you’d think we’d known each other for quite some time, the way everyone got along. Joshilyn is a consummate performer: you can tell she was an actress in her previous profession. Tatjana gives an eloquent read. Her book is serious, but she is lighthearted and fun. She and her husband, Gaylord, dance the tango!

The way back — this time the RIGHT ferry — was too short. It was fun just to sit together and recapped the fun. I hope everyone in the audience had as much fun as we had.

The Literary Agent Who Became a Book Publisher

If you want to know how quickly and surprisingly the business of publishing books is changing, look no further than the third floor of Sharlene Martin‘s house on north Bainbridge Island.

There, the offices of the Martin Literary Management are a nearly nonstop buzz of activity. But it’s not buzzing just with the business-as-usual of the literary agency, which represents mostly inspirational memoirs, celebrity biographies, true crime and other commercial nonfiction — three of which were New York Times bestsellers in the past year.

It’s buzzing because Martin and her crew are getting ready to publish their first book.

Wait a minute. A literary agent publishing the work she represents? Is this how the publishing industry is supposed to work?

Not normally, no. But what’s normal these days in book publishing, which is undergoing a seismic shift in how books are developed and distributed?

“Not much,” Martin conceded with a laugh.

A case in point is the book that’s generating the buzz. Cirque Du Salahi: Be Careful Who You Trust is the story of Tareq and Michaele Salahi, who Martin represents along with the author, investigative journalist Diane Dimond.

The Salahis are the high-society Washington D.C. couple who made headlines back in November 2009 when they got past the Secret Service into a White House state dinner. The so-called “White House party-crashers” stirred up a lot of controversy and curiosity — more so the latter of late since Michaele Salahi joined the lineup of the reality TV show, The Real Housewives Of D.C.

It’s that latter fact that drove Martin to make the unusual choice to publish the Salahi story on her own, in cooperation with Amazon.com, because she wanted the book to come out in time to capitalize on the latest rise in profile for the couple. In particular, she wanted a product ready to buy before the TV series ended Oct. 7.

“It’s a decision I consciously made. I did not shop this to traditional New York publishers,” said Martin, a Connecticut native who relocated to Bainbridge a few years ago with her partner, author Anthony Flacco. “There was no way they could accommodate the window of sales opportunity for this book — it would have been obsolete by the time they could have gotten it ready.”

(Generally speaking, it takes about two years from the time a book is sold to a publisher for it to appear on bookshelves.)

So what was Martin’s alternative? 

In her view, to publish it through the CreateSpace program offered by Seattle online book giant Amazon. That took care of preparing and distributing print and electronic versions of the book. 

Everything else fell to Martin and her crew.

“All the decisions a publisher had to make, I made,” she said.

And then some.

First, she had to bring a writer on board, and a natural choice was Dimond, her longtime client. Then came editing, legal vetting, cover and interior designing, promotional strategizing and a zillion other chores big and small. Almost everything a big New York publishing house would do was handled in the lovely home overlooking the island’s Sand Spit. (Flacco, for example, was dragooned into duty as the project’s content editor.)

Another unusual quirk: Everybody involved is taking whatever financial rewards may result on the back end of the book’s release, in lieu of the advance-money arrangements commonly made with traditional book deals.

“We’re calling it a sweat-equity book,” Martin said.

The Kindle as well as trade paperback version of Cirque Du Salahi became available Sept. 15. A promotional blitz, largely centered on the East Coast where interest in the Salahis is strongest, will follow. 

In lieu of a traditional book tour with on-site signings in bookstores, Martin and Co. are arranging for “Virtual Book Chats” in which, at scheduled times, people can log on for a live chat with Dimond and the Salahis and participate in live question-and-answer sessions.

Martin, ever the promoter, says that the book reveals information heretofore unknown about the Salahis, gleaned through Dimond’s exhaustive fact-checking, interviews and research. She calls many of media stories about the couple “urban myth,” and the book’s jacket copy  echoes that thought:

This journalistic autopsy reveals how one event can capture a ravenous media’s attention, become the fodder for bogus political drama, and with razor-sharp and misplaced attention, ruin the reputation of a politically connected couple who did little more than attend a White House function for which they believed they had an invitation.

Later, Martin, a frequent writing-workshop instructor, will try to use her self-publishing experiment as a teaching moment. “We want to set up a program at colleges around the country for journalism students, about how they can do this kind of project themselves,” she said.

It’s a talk that Martin has walked for herself, having taken her first foray into author-dom last November with the release of Publish Your Nonfiction Book, co-written with Flacco and published by Writer’s Digest Books as a how-to guide for preparing would-be authors for publishing success.

Working on an unforgiving deadline for their publisher made Martin feel “like every day, I was taking my SATs,” she said. “I have a whole new respect for how hard authors work.”

It should be noted that Martin’s foray into self-publishing hasn’t burned any of her many bridges with the traditional book-publishing establishment. As usual, she has several projects in play — most recently, she’s been working on a memoir by Hillary Williams, daughter of country music legend Hank Williams Jr. — and many are being published through big New York houses.

But that doesn’t mean that Cirque Du Salahi is a one-shot deal.

“We’ll apply this paradigm in the future,” Martin said, “where it’s appropriate.”

My guess is that she won’t be the only one.

Said Martin: “We’re been playing a new game with old rules. And that has to change, or a lot of people are going to go out of business.”

Reading Kitsap on Facebook

Are you on Facebook? Of course you are. The entire world is on Facebook.

So is Reading Kitsap. I’ve created a Facebook page for this blog. If you’re on Facebook as much as I am, then you’ll like how it gives you a much easier way to keep up to speed on new blog posts. Also, I like to survey people there on various book-related topics, and post links to other items I think you might find interesting. Plus, there’s the whole connect-with-other-people-in-your-community-who-share-your-interests thing.

And there’s the interactive component. I’ve decided to be pretty lenient about letting anyone who wants to share a link, a news tidbit or some media about the Kitsap literary scene — or the literary scene in general — do just that. If you’re a writer, book-club leader, or whatever, I’m pretty open to letting you promote your work on the Reading Kitsap wall as long as you’re not crass about it.

So … go to your Facebook account, type “Reading Kitsap” in the search field, click “Like” once you get there, and join in the conversations. There’s 53 of already there, as of this writing, all of whom like, generally, the same things you do.

Thanks for reading Reading Kitsap. And thanks for reading Kitsap. And thanks for reading.

Romance Writers Honor Debbie Macomber on Saturday

Debbie Macomber will be the featured speaker when the Peninsula Chapter of the Romance Writers of America meet at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Sylvan Way Branch of the Kitsap Regional Library in East Bremerton.

Macomber, who helped found the chapter in 1986, will do a Q&A with attendees, and she’ll also be celebrated by her home chapter for her receipt of the national organization’s Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. (She formally received the prestigious prize at RWA’s annual conference in late July, following in the footsteps of romance-writing legend Linda Lael Miller, a former Kitsap resident, who received the same award in 2007.) The award is given “in recognition of significant contributions to the romance genre.”

The meeting is open to anyone interested.

The Peninsula RWA chapter, with 70 members, covers the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas, as well as the Tacoma area. “We support all writers in all genres, not just romance,” said Jennifer Conner, chapter president. “We bring in speakers, editors, agents and other authors to help our members hone their craft and become stronger writers.”

And Conner, a 1979 South Kitsap High graduate, is proof that it works. Her first published romance novel, Kilt By Love, will be released Sept. 27. (It was her seventh manuscript.) Congratulations, Jennifer.

Here’s the summary from Conner’s blog:

When Sasha Nolan loses her job as an events planner, she decides to take her dream vacation to Scotland. Her plan is to find out what Scotsmen wear under their kilts, but instead, she’s stuck on a tour bus of senior citizens. When she meets Allister MacTavish, a modern day laird, all that changes. There’s one simple rule for her vacation, kilt, conquer and leave. Can Sasha follow her rule when Allister asks for her help in creating a plan to rescue MacTavish Castle from financial ruin? Suddenly Sasha finds that she’s tempted to abandon her old life, help Allister, and indulge in every sexual fantasy she’s ever had. Because now, she’s found out what Scotsmen wear under their kilts…nothing at all.

Rick Bass Started Out by Writing Short Stories on His Lunch Breaks

Way behind on this stuff, but trying to catch up a little at a time over the next few days.

I’ve talked plenty about the Between The Pages event Thursday night on Bainbridge Island, but there’s another literary heavy hitter in town that evening as well: Rick Bass, a Mississippi-bred author who now lives in Montana, will be reading at 7:30 p.m. at Eagle Harbor Book Co. from his first novel after nearly a decade of nonfiction writing, Nashville Chrome, a 1959 tale of Southern music, family, rivalries and secrets. Publisher’s Weekly loved it: “Like the sound Chet Atkins pulls from the Browns in the studio, the narrative has a pitch-perfect chorus of longing and regret, with an undertone that connects and heals.”

(Here’s another review.)

I wish I could be there; Bass sounds entirely too interesting. From his Wikipedia page: “He started writing short stories on his lunch breaks while working as a petroleum geologist in Jackson, Mississippi.” So let that be a little sunburst of inspiration to everyone who thinks they’re too busy with their everyday lives to write a book. Because you’re not.

Literary Heavy Hitters Go to Bat for Kitsap Libraries

Authors of literature are usually valued in society as philosophers, sages and teachers. Oh, and quality drinking companions (in my experience, anyway).

To that list, add superheroes.

It’s in the latter mode that five highly regarded fiction writers from all over the United States are coming Thursday to Bainbridge Island for a public reading and reception. Their mission: To raise money for the cash-strapped Kitsap Regional Library system.

Jane Smiley

The $50-a-ticket “Between The Pages” event, at the Bainbridge Performing Arts center, features one marquee name: Jane Smiley, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres, a modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear which was later made into a movie starring Jason Robards, Jessica Lange and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Josie Brown

Joining Smiley are four other female authors with strong national reputations: Josie Brown, Eileen Goudge, Joshilyn Jackson and Tatjana Soli.

Eileen Goudge

For 90 minutes, they’ll read from their latest novels (more on those below), interview each other and possibly take some questions from the audience, Wright said. They’ll stay for another 40 minutes after to chat and sign copies of their books.

“My karmic way of giving back is to come up with ideas in which the sales of my books can help good causes,” said Brown, a Bay Area author who helped spearhead the event. (She even arranged for copies of her newest novel, Secret Lives Of Husbands And Wives, to be included in the ticket price.)

Brown is friends with Robbie Wright, a corporate events planner who lives on Bainbridge. When Wright told her last spring about the library system’s woes — budget cuts, past levy failures and the theft of children’s books from the Port Orchard branch — Brown came up with the fundraiser idea.

They quickly enlisted Peter Raffa, director of the Kitsap Regional Library Foundation, and the three drew up a wish list of names. One glittery name at the top of their list — show-business novelist Jackie Collins — initially committed to the Between The Pages event.

Joshilyn Jackson

But, Brown said, Collins had to drop out when when the date for the London premiere of a movie based on one of her books shifted from summer to fall. Also having to drop out was novelist Lisa Rinna, who saw the release of her latest novel shifted to October.

They got Smiley, their other top name, to come up from her Northern California home, however. Goudge, a New York author with a second home in the Puget Sound area, came on board next, followed by Jackson, a Georgia resident, and Soli, who lives in Southern California.

Tatjana Soli

All write what could be labeled literary, issue-driven women’s fiction.

“They are heavy hitters, all of whom have have books that resonate with library patrons all over the country,” Brown said. “And there are no more avid readers than those in the Seattle metro area. That’s a known statistic in the book industry.”

And, she added: “Any excuse to get out into the incomparable Puget Sound area is a writer’s joy. Which is why so many great ones live in your neck of the woods, right?”

*****

Sad disclosure: As things stand now, I won’t be able to attend the event, as I must punch in for my regular Thursday swing shift at the paragraph factory in Bremerton. However, if you’re going and bringing a camera, would you mind sharing some of your shots with me so I can share with everyone? E-mail me at thomsen1965@gmail.com. And please share some of the funny anecdotes and other highlights of the evening. And cake, if there’s any.

*****

A little about each author and their latest books:

• Jane Smiley, who has published 13 novels, three nonfiction books and a short-story collection over a 30-year career, came out earlier this year with her latest, Private Life, which follows one Midwestern woman’s life in marriage from the 1880s to World War II. Said Booklist: “Smiley casts a gimlet eye on the institution of marriage even as she offers a fascinating glimpse of a distant era.”

• Josie Brown is a journalist who specializes in celebrity interviews and relationship articles. Her previous novels include True Hollywood Lies and Impossibly Tongue-Tied; her latest release, just out in June, is Secret Lives Of Husbands And Wives, which examines the dramas of two vastly different Silicon Valley couples. Wrote Booklist: “These women inside their fishbowl are fun to peer in on despite being caricaturish, and the momentum of Brown’s writing and plot keeps the pages turning.”

• Eileen Goudge broke into book publishing by contributing to the crazily successful Sweet Valley High series for young teen girls in the early ’80s. She published her first adult novel in 1986, and her latest, released last October, is Once In A Blue Moon, a tale of two tempestuous sisters and their secrets. Said Publisher’s Weekly: “A touching story with wide appeal, Goudge’s novel is a sharp example of dysfunctional family fiction.”

• Joshilyn Jackson, a Florida native and former teacher, broke into book publishing with a splash, with 2005’s gods in Alabama. Her fourth book, released in June, is drawing her biggest notices: Backseat Saints, a Southern-fried tale of an abused woman who runs from the husband who will never let her go. Said Booklist: “Jackson peels back Rose’s hard edges and resignation to reveal a smart, earnest, brave, and surprisingly hopeful young woman who yearns to make a better life for herself.”

• Tatjana Soli, born in Austria, wrote and published short stories for years before breaking out this spring with her debut novel, The Lotus Eaters, an exhaustively researched story of a female wartime photographer in Southeast Asia at the close of the Vietnam War. Wrote Kirkus Reviews: “Graphic but never gratuitous, the gripping, haunting narrative explores the complexity of violence, foreignness, even betrayal. Moving and memorable.”

*****

Between The Pages: A fundraising event for the Kitsap Regional Library Foundation

Who: Authors Jane Smiley, Josie Brown, Eileen Goudge, Joshilyn Jackson and Tatjana Soli

When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Bainbridge Performing Arts Center, 200 Madison Ave. N., Bainbridge Island

Tickets: $50 (includes copy of Brown’s novel, Secret Lives Of Husbands and Wives), with discount available for groups of eight or more; and $150 for “VIP” access, which includes a catered pre-event reception with the authors and copies of each of their latest novels. Purchase at Liberty Bay Books, 18881 D Front St., Poulsbo.

More Info: For ticket info, Peter Raffa, (360) 475-9039; for event info, Robbie Wright, (206) 390-1989

News and Notes: Bite-Sized Adventures in Authortastic Awesomeness

Some news and notes from around the Kitsap literary scene:

• Just got a note from the folks at Elandan Gardens in Gorst that a copy of Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees: The Life and Works of Dan Robinson, Bonsai Pioneer has arrived at the home of the world-class bonsai art collection, even though the book won’t be formally released until October. Robinson, of course, is the world-renowned “Picasso of Bonsai” who makes Elandan his home base when he’s not off trotting the globe teaching others the exquisite tree-design art. At $49.95, the price may give pause, but, if you click on the link and leaf through a sampling of pages, you’ll see the the pictures are indeed exquisite. Ordering information is available there as well.

• I asked Ollala crime author Gregg Olsen about his newest fiction thriller, Closer Than Blood. All he would tell me is that it features Kendall Stark, the Kitsap County sheriff’s detective featured in his most recently published novel, Victim Six. Oh, and that it’s set, like the last one, in Port Orchard. And it has “a serial killer with ties to the South Kitsap High School Class of ’94.” It’ll be out the first week of April, which is when the paperback version of Gregg’s latest true-crime book, A Twisted Faith, comes out.

Gregg also reminded me that the “Dateline: NBC” program spotlighting the Kitsap case behind A Twisted Faith airs again on Friday, Sept. 24. He’ll also be discussing the story at a Nov. 12 fundraiser dinner for the Kitsap Historical Society.

• Bainbridge Island author Anthony Flacco, another crime writer, has been no less busy than Gregg. I’ll have a blog post coming soon on an interesting project he’s immersed at the moment, but he’s also plugging away at his next novel. His fiction work to this point has been historical, but this time he’s trying something new.

Said Anthony: “The new story is a contemporary magical romance set in San Francisco in the world of food shows and reality TV. The plot is moved by an ancient native myth that influences the choices of the principal characters.”

Anthony’s most recent books were The Road Out Of Hell, a well-received historical true-crime tale from the 1920s, and Publish Your Nonfiction Book, a Writer’s Digest book he produced last fall with his longtime partner, literary agent Sharlene Martin.

Speaking of The Road Out Of Hell, Anthony announced not long ago that an Italian publisher had acquired the book’s rights and would be hosting some author appearances when the translation releases in March 2011. Said Anthony on his Facebook page: “What a wonderful way to visit that country, La Dolce Vita! One hundred years after my grandparents arrived at Ellis Island.”

• Somehow, in my post last week catching us up on Debbie Macomber’s oeuvre, I missed that Susan Wiggs, the Bainbridge author of romance and women’s fiction, had the same day re-released The Firebrand, the last in a trilogy of historical romances she originally published about a decade ago based on the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Publisher’s Weekly liked it, in a 2001 review: “She has created a quiet page-turner that will hold readers spellbound as the relationships, characters and story unfold. Fans of historical romances will naturally flock to this skillfully executed trilogy, and general women’s fiction readers should find this story enchanting as well.”

Garth Sundem was nice enough to send me his geektastic new book, Brain Candy: Science, Paradoxes, Puzzles, Logic and Illogic to Nourish Your Neurons, a couple of months ago, and I’m feeling guilty for not having mentioned it yet. The new book by the 1994 Bainbridge High grad, much like his first two, is a trip through the “intersection of science, math and humor.” It’s loaded with hundreds of funky little factoids, puzzles, logic tests and other ways of demonstrating how our malleable, easily tricked but surprisingly resilient brains work and how the science of putting it to work more efficiently has advanced.

Sundem, who now lives in Ojai, Calif., eats up science writing and research with two spoonfuls. As a result, his bite-sized-nuggets of geekery require more thoughtful digestion than a potboiler novel. That explains why I’m just on page 73, and why, if I wait till I’m done to do a proper write-up, we’ll likely have a new president in the White House.

So, to get a taste of what Brain Candy is all about, click here for some samples. Or watch this tremendously entertaining 2007 appearance on Good Morning America, in which Sundem banters with Diane Sawyer and shows how math calculations can determine whether or not couples should get married — or stay married.

• And, speaking of former Bainbridge Islanders, Seattle author Brandon Kyle Rudd just released the latest edition of his Cooper’s Pack children’s travel guides, Cooper’s Pack Travel Guide to Seattle. The 72-page picture tome follows the adventures of Cooper the dog and his pal, Elliott the otter, as they hop a ferry from Bainbridge Island and see the sights around downtown Seattle. The book, priced at $12.95, can come with plush toys and other kid-friendly accessories.

Rudd — whose pen name on the guides is just “Kyle” — made his mark on Bainbridge as a kid in the late ’70s and ’80s, publishing the Winslow Advertiser shopper from his fourth through eighth grades, and later Exhibition, a well-regarded visual and literary arts magazine, through his high-school years. His Bainbridge school years made a lingering impression on him, as the bios of his characters at the end of his books throw shout-outs to some of his favorite teachers: Gary Axling (Blakely Elementary), Dave Layton and Eileen Okada (Commodore Middle School) and Paul See (Bainbridge High).

Cooper’s Pack Travel Guide To Seattle is the third in a series; previous editions spotlighted New York City and London, and next year will see Cooper visit Bangkok. The book — or its interactive edition — can be purchased online or at Seattle tourist attractions like the Space Needle, Ivar’s and Seattle Duck Tours. (Interesting sidelight: The media relations person for Cooper’s Pack Publishing, based in Seattle, is Marta Drevniak — who happens to be Gregg Olsen‘s daughter.)

• OK, one last ex-Bainbridge Islander (I get to do this because I happen to be one). Remember the big kerfuffle alluded to in a previous Reading Kitsap post about The New York Times’ alleged bias in book reviews toward white male authors from New York? Well, I found out that if you’re looking for Exhibit B to prosecute that case (Exhibit A being Jonathan Franzen), look no further than former Bainbridge resident Alan Furst.

The 69-year-old Furst, a native Manhattanite who lived on Bainbridge for a while in the ’80s and ’90s when he worked for the Seattle Arts Commission, has written 11 literary spy thrillers. All have been set in Europe, before and during World War II, and nine of them have been reviewed in the Times (check them out here). The tenth, Spies Of The Balkans, was reviewed in The Times not once but twice. (The second review is less complimentary, dinging Furst for Ph.D-level historical research at the expense of character development.)

And Furst also got a lavish feature in The Times’ Books section a couple of years ago, in which he sat with the reporter in his Sag Harbor home and said, “I’m basically an Upper West Side Jewish writer.” (Gentile non-gentlemen, start your outrage engines.)

But here’s my favorite part of the story:

Mr. Furst wrote what he now calls a “transitional book,” “Shadow Trade,” a contemporary spy thriller, and helped Debbi Fields, the chocolate chip cookie mogul, write her autobiography. There were also three novels he’d just as soon not talk about. They were comic murder mysteries set in the world of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. “It never occurred to me that people didn’t want to read about sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll,” he said. “Or that there might be other things you’d want to do with sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.”

Awesome, that. Also:

At a writer’s conference in the late ’80s, Mr. Furst went on to say, he ran into Peter Davison, then the poetry editor at The Atlantic Monthly and also an editor at the Atlantic Monthly Press. Mr. Davison said to him, “We looked at your manuscripts,” Mr. Furst recalled. “Do you want to know why we turned them down?” When he said yes, Mr. Davison said they were the most smart-alecky things he had ever seen.

Even more awesome.

• OK. but nothing’s quite as awesome as this. Jamie Ford, the South Kitsap High grad who’s coming Oct. 16 to Poulsbo to speak as part of the Kitsap Regional Library‘s “One Book One Community” program, shared a funny story on his blog about a fanboy writer crush he’s long had on legendary science-fiction author Harlan Ellison.

Seems that the acclaimed author of Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet wanted to honor Ellison’s legacy of performance-theater writing — Ellison used to type short stories in a storefront window and give them away to those who watched — when he takes the stage at Richard Hugo House in Seattle next month for The Novel: Live! fundraising event next month. Facing a two-hour writing turn before a live audience, Ford wrote to Ellison asking the other man — now 76 — if he could wear a T-shirt of his at the event.

Next thing Ford knew, he received a call at his Montana home from the man himself.

Wrote Ford in his blog about the call: “Picking up the phone and hearing, ‘Hi, Jamie, this is Harlan Ellison,’ was like learning that Santa Claus is real. Except he’s Jewish and drops the f-bomb a bit more.”

As a result, Ford will take his turn on stage at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, wearing a Harlan Ellison T-shirt.

Thus concludes this edition of awesometasticness.

Actually, wait, one more thing: Ford has agreed to do a Q&A with me in advance of his visit.

Flippin’ awesome.